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Valira Torrent:   Contents | Subject index

Perforation image from Serif Art Gallery. © Serif Inc, 1996

Valira Torrent - bulletin of the Andorran Philatelic Study Circle. Issue 8, pp5-8 (Nov 1978).

Copyright notice

French Andorra
The 1931/1932 Provisional Issue (Part 1)

By Alec Jacques and Jean Bacquer

(This article originally appeared in the U.P.L. "Section Andorre" magazine, dated January, 1977, and was later published in the May, 1978 issue of "The Philatelist.")

The opening of the Spanish Post Offices in Andorra in 1928, although complying with the original directions of the U.P.U. in 1878, contravened the dual sovereignty of Andorra. Immediately, the French sought to introduce their own Post Offices in Andorra and they applied to have the rulings amended at the U.P.U. Convention in London 1929. Their application was favourably received and granted. As a result the French Post Office in Andorra began business on 16th June, 1931, with the Head Office at Andorra la Vieille and Agencies at Canillo, Encamp, La Massana, Ordino, San Julian de Loria and Soldeu.

Similar to the first issue by the Spanish Post Office the French issue was of a provisional nature and consisted of French stamps overprinted "ANDORRE". In fact, the 16th June saw the release of no less than thirty-six different values, twenty-three of these being postage values.


There were four different designs used for the postage series:-

½c to l0c "Blanc", designed by Joseph Blanc and engraved by E. Thomas

15c to 40c, 90c and 1f50 "Sower" designed by Louis-Oscar Roty and engraved by Eugene Mouchon.

45c to 75c and lf "Sower" lined background

2f to 20f "Merson" designed by Luc-Olivier Merson and engraved by M. Thevenin

The stamps to receive the Andorre overprints were contemporary French stamps with the exception of the 30c, 90c and 1f50 postage values. These stamps were specially printed for the Andorre overprints as it was not considered correct to have the current portrait of Pasteur (30c and lf5O) and Berthelot overprinted and issued in a foreign country. The three special stamps were provided with the minimum of work however. The 30c was printed from the same plates as the 30c blue (Yvert 192) but with changed colour to green; and the 1f50 value was made from the plates of the 1930 Caisse d'amortissement stamp (Yv. 268) with colour changed to blue. The 90c Sower only existed in France on postal stationery and so an electro-type plate was made up from that.

There were eight Banderole type postage dues 5c, lOc, 30c, 50c, 60c, lf, 2f and 3f).and five Recouvrements values (lc, lOc, 60c, 1f20 on 2f and 5f on lf). Recouvrements stamps are used to recover unpaid charges from the sender, in respect of "cash on delivery" packets and parcels etc. which have been refused or returned by the addressee. The lf and 2f values were added to the series in March, 1932.


The Postage values up to the 1f50 value, the Recouvrements and the 3f Postage Due were printed in sheets of 100. These consisted of two panes of 50 (5x10) separated by a vertical gutter. The stamps were printed by rotary typo and there were two plates (Galvanos) per cylinder, thus producing two sheets of stamps per cylinder revolution. These sheets do not have any top marginal inscription but there is a sheet number in the bottom left corner margin. In the central gutter is the machine (presse) number and the coin-daté is in the bottom right corner margin below the last two stamps. Normally, the sheet number and coin-daté are in black and the ½c on lc value is the only exception. This is because this value was printed on a Chambon rotary typo press with two cylinders - one cylinder printing the basic stamp and the other printing the surcharge together with the sheet number and coin-daté, all in red. (Details of presse numbers and coins-datés - table 1.)

The Merson high values (2f, 3f, 5f, l0f and 20f) were printed by flat press typo in sheets of 150, comprising six panes of 25 stamps. These large sheets were cut down into sheets of 75 before issue.

The Postage Dues (except the 3f) were also printed by flat presses in sheets of 150, comprising six panes of 25 stamps (5x5). These panes were grouped 2x3 and between each pair of horizontal panes is a narrow vertical gutter, half a stamp width. In this gutter, opposite the second row of stamps in each of the three pairs of panes, is a number in the colour of the printed stamp. This is the millésime (table 2) and denotes the year the sheet was printed, for example 9 = 1929; 0 = 1930.

The total numbers printed are shown in table 1 but it is certain that nowhere near these figures were actually sold. This is especially true of the Merson high values which had little or no postal use, and also did not attract the collectors of coins-dates blocks of four.

All values were comb perforated l4xl3½ except the Merson types which are comb perf 13½x14.

As the basic sheets of stamps, except the three postage values previously mentioned, were pulled from existing French stocks to receive the Andorre overprints, there are some shade varieties. These are indicated in table 1.

TABLE 1 Numbers
½c./lc. grey-black; slate grey 30,000 6 A+C 3 and 4/6/30
4 D+E 26, 27, 28 and 30/3/31
1c. grey-black, grey, slate grey 30,000 8 A+C 29/7/29
10 A+C 6/6/30 and 19/8/30
5 A+C 30/9/30
2c. lake brown; pale lake brown 30,000 6 G+H 24 and 27/2/30
5 G+H 9 and 10/6/31
3c. orange 30,000 8 A+B 14, 15, 16, 19 and 20/5/30
5c. green 30,000 6 O+P 27/12/28. 11 and 12/1/29
10c. violet 30,000 9 B+C 3 and 12/2/30
15c. deep red brown 50,000 10 A+L 23/5/30
10 A+M 21/5/30
20c magenta 30,000 7 G+H 5/7/29
25c. ochre 50,000 8 J+K 3 and 4/3/30
30c green (special printing) 30,000 2 A+B 18/10/30
40c ultramarine 50,000 4 N+U 18/4/30
45c violet 30,000 7 B+C 18 and 21/5/29
50c vermillion 50,000 9 AU+AV 30/9/30
65c sage green 30,000 9 A+B 11 and 12/2/29
75c pale magenta 30,000 6 E+F 17 and 23/5/29
90c red (special printing) 30,000 10 A+B 25/10/30
1f. blue 30,000 8 A+F 13 and 17/6/30
1f.50 bright blue (special printing) 50,000 10 A+B 17/9/30
3f magenta red 10,000 5 A+B 8 and 9/11/26
1c olive; olive green 10,000 10 A+B 27/12/27
3 A+B 24/12/28
7 A+B 13/6/32
10c rose carmine 10,000 8 A+B 5/11/30
60c orange brown 10,000 10 A+B 4/2/30
1f. deep blue green 8,000 7 A+B 18, 19 and 20/6/31
1f.20/2f. blue 10,000 6 A+B 10/1/27
2f. sepia 8,000 9 A+B 15/6/31
5f./1f. violet 10,000 1 A+B 11/12/26
The 2f., 3f., 5f., l0f., 20f. Merson, high values did not have coins-datés 3,750


TABLE 2 Numbers printed Millésimes
5c. deep blue; bright blue 15,000 9 (1929)
0 (1930)
10c. brown; bistre brown 15,000 9 and 0
30c.carmine red 15,000 9 and 0
50c. deep claret 15,000 0
1 (1931)
60c. green 15,000 9
1f. red-brown/buff 15,000 9 and 0
2f lilac 15,000 0


Category 1 - plate flaws and other varieties on the basic stamp

½c and lc values. The best variety is the badly broken frame line on row 8 No. 5 of the right pane, stamp No. 80 of the whole sheet, of plate C (cylinder A + C). A more minor frame break is to be found on the left pane of the same sheet Rl/4 (stamp No. 4) - the break being nearer the top of the left frame line.

The circle variety is to be found on Rl/l of the right hand pane of plate A (stamp No. 6). Wear to the plate is to be found on R2/2 left pane (stamp No. 12) of plate A. This can be seen at and around the junction of the left frame line and the inner curved border, immediately to the left of the letters UBLIQ of REPUBLIQUE. On the same plate but on RlO/4 of the right pane (stamp No. 99) there is a white egg shaped flaw in the "Q" of REPUBLIQUE to the left of the cherub's wing tip.

The A + C cylinder also shows a transient variety. This takes the form of a small area of black shading in the value tablet to the left of "lc". This variety can often be found many times per sheet in varying degrees of size and clarity. It would appear to be present more on stamps from plate A than on those of plate C. This variety is not a plate flaw and there are two possible explanations for its existence. If the makeready was slightly imperfect, or not securely fastened when printing began, the effect would be for portions of the design to receive colour where no colour was intended. Conversely, the absence of colour from coloured portions of the design would also occur. However, it is also possible that the variety is due to a build up of ink on the plate below the normal printing height. The transference of this unwanted ink to the stamps is most likely to occur on comparatively large uncoloured areas, especially when excessive pressure was applied to the continuous reel of paper. This build up of ink on the plate is the result of inadequate cleansing between cylinder revolutions. The above variety is commonly seen on the ½c surcharge value but only rarely on the 1c value.

Plate flaws
Row 8/5 broken frame; Row 1/1 right hand pane, "Circle" flaw and the transient patch of shading in the value tablet.

3c value. Some stamps of this value show damage to the tips of the wings in both the upper corners. This could be due either to damage and wear to the plate or to uneven pressure during printing.

5c value. This value provides a most spectacular variety due to damage of the plate. On R6/l left pane (stamp No.51) of plate P, cylinder 0 + P, the top left corner is badly damaged. Both frame lines are extensively damaged and the wing is almost completely missing. This value has also been recorded with the top frame line extensively broken in the centre, with damage to the inner curved border and the top of the head. This damage has been retouched and an example with the frame line retouched but with still some damage to the head has been seen. A minor flaw also occurs on this plate. This is in the nature of a white patch of colour above the central arm of the letter "E" of POSTES. It is a constant variety and is to be found on Rl/5 of the left pane (stamp No. 5).

A sheet of this value is known with the original sheet number (81?lO) overprinted with two heavy black horizontal bars and a new sheet number (61228) inserted to the right of the deleted number. The sheet is from plate O (cylinder O + P) printed by Presse No. 6, and the coin-daté is 27/12/28.

15c value. It is recorded that on R2/2 left pane (stamp No. 12) of plate M cylinder A + M, the name of the designer ROTY is missing at the bottom left of the stamp.

20c value. This value provides a wide selection of varieties due to wear of the plate. Sheets from cylinder G + H were used for the overprint and, whilst plate H was almost free from blemish, plate G was badly worn and all the varieties listed below are from this plate. On R5 Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 5 right pane (stamp Nos. 46/9) the names of the engraver and designer are either almost or entirely missing. The top inscription of REPUBLIQUE FRANCAISE is damaged in varying degrees on Rl/Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 5 right pane (stamp nos. 7/10) and similar flaws to a lesser extent are to be seen on Rl/Nos. 2, 3 and 4 of the left pane (stamp nos. 2/4). The "I" of FRANCAISE is almost missing on Rl/l right pane (stamp no. 6) and RlO/l right pane (stamp no. 96). It is completely missing on R8/3 left pane (stamp no. 73) and R3/4 right pane (stamp no. 29). The "Q" of REPUBLIQUE is absent on the last stamp of the sheet R10/5 right pane (stamp no. 100).

The Sower's arms and feet show considerable wear on many stamps. The complete arm below the elbow is missing on R7/3 right pane (stamp no. 68) also on R6/3, R7/2 and 4, R8/3 and 4, R9/Nos. 2, 3 and 4, all from the right pane (stamp nos. 58, 67, 69, 78/9, 87/9). Missing hands are common! The amputated front foot is very noticeable on R8/3 left pane (stamp no. 73) and other good examples are also to be seen on R5/2, R6/2, 3 and 4, R8/2, R9/3 of the left pane (stamp nos. 42, 52/4, 72, 83), and on R5/3, R6/3 and 4, R7/2, 3 and 4, R8/2 and 3, R9/4 right pane, (stamp nos. 48, 58, 59, 67/9, 77/8, 89).

2 francs. The left cheek of the Goddess is virtually obliterated by a large scar in the shape of an orange cross. This flaw is to be found on Rl/2 (stamp No. 2) of the central pane.

3 francs. There is a triangular patch of lilac colour in the shape of a comma between the letters "BL" of REPUBLIQUE - near the top. This is believed to be constant but the position is unknown.

20 francs. An imperforate copy of this value has been recorded but its status is unknown. The overprint is noticeably higher than that on the issued stamp.

Plate flaws
5c plate damage to the top left corner; 20c plate G. Varying degrees of plate damage seen in stamps on the top row; 2f. Row 1/2.

Part 2

Note: All aspects of the 1931 issue are covered in a booklet published by CIFA, available from W. A. Jacques

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